July 2, 2020

The spike in COVID-19 infections across the country has raised concerns among employees about personal and family health, managing a remote workload, and uncertainty about their own or their family members job security and finances. How employees cope with stress can affect an employee’s well-being both at home and in the workplace. During this pandemic, it is critical that employers help employees recognize what stress looks like, take steps to build resilience, and know where to go if they need help. 

Employees may not realize that while the stress that they are feeling may not be work-related, it may impact the work that they produce. Studies have shown that stressed-out workers are typically less productive, more distracted and tend to experience higher rates of illness. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lists the following symptoms of stress that employees should be aware of:

  • Feeling irritation, anger
  • Feeling uncertain, nervous, or anxious
  • Lacking motivation
  • Feeling tired, overwhelmed, or burned out
  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Having trouble concentrating

Dr. Richard Citrin, an organizational psychologist and author of The Resilience Advantage: Stop Managing Stress and Find Your Resilience , offers the following advice on dealing with stress: 

Remind yourself that you are resilient.  Think of the many previous times in your life when your competency, resilience, and hopefulness has seen you through. Tap into that trait to help navigate through the tough times, reminding yourself that you were able to bounce back before, and you will again.

Learn to work remotely.  If you are a manager of remote employees be sure to set expectations, check in with employees every couple of days, and remind them that it’s important to take a break – eat lunch away from the computer or take a walk. 

Self-care is key.  It is more important than ever to get a good night’s sleep, eat a healthy diet, and spend time outdoors or exercising. Connect with family and friends, even if it has to be virtually.  Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting and mentally exhausting. It might be a good time to try a new some mindfulness techniques:   https://www.mindful.org/

Practice gratitude.  Focusing on the positive helps to distract from the negative news and information that is coming our way. For example, an online staff meeting may start with each person sharing one thing they are grateful for. You can also spread the feeling of gratitude by acknowledging those around you. Offer to pick up groceries for a family member or neighbor, or check in on an elderly individual you may know to see if they need assistance.

Realize you can’t control everything.  You can’t always control what is happening around you, but you can control how you respond to it. Get to a place of acceptance – this doesn’t necessarily mean that you agree with what is happening, but that you can accept that it is happening. 

Know where to turn for help.  Data reported by Fidelity Investments and Business Group on Health reports that 95% of employers include emotional and mental health programs as part of their corporate well-being platforms. Check with your insurance carrier to see if an Employee Assistance Program is included as part of your coverage, and if not, what it would cost to add one to your menu of benefits offerings.  Regardless, make sure that your employees have information on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline , the Online Lifeline Crisis Chat , the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the Centers for Disease Control  Employers should regularly remind their employees of the mental health benefits that are available to them. 

Sources: Forbes, “How to Manage Workplace Stress Dealing with the Coronavirus Pandemic” HR Executive, “Emotional Well-Being Programs” and Centers for Disease Control “Employees: How to Cope with Job Stress and Build Resilience During the COVID-19 Pandemic”


HR/AA consultants are available to work with you on a project and/or interim basis to assist you with understanding, implementing and administering best practices related to the current COVID-19 challenges we are facing.

For more information contact:
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